Hungary says 'grievances' hold up ratification of Sweden's NATO accession

A general view of the Hungarian parliament as it votes for the ratification of Finland's NATO membership in Budapest, Hungary, March 27, 2023. REUTERS/Marton Monus

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary is holding up Sweden's admission to NATO because of grievances over criticism by Stockholm of Prime Minister Viktor Orban's policies, the Hungarian government spokesman said on Wednesday.

Bridging the gap will require effort on both sides, spokesman Zoltan Kovacs said.

Sweden and its neighbour Finland asked to join the NATO military alliance last year following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. But the process has been held up by Hungary and Turkey.

After months of foot-dragging by Orban's ruling Fidesz party, Hungary's parliament approved a bill on Monday to allow Finland to join NATO but the Swedish bill is still stranded.

"In the case of Sweden, there is an ample amount of grievances that need to be addressed before the country’s admission is ratified," Kovacs said on his blog.

Swedish representatives "have been repeatedly keen to bash Hungary through diplomatic means, using their political influence to harm Hungarian interests", he said, referring to Swedish criticism over the erosion of rule of law by Orban's government in the past 13 years. Orban denies these allegations.

He said Stockholm had taken a "hostile attitude" to Budapest for years.

"Adding Ankara's woes and grievances to the mix does not leave much room to manoeuvre, at least not until the Swedes start changing their tune and help these lingering wounds heal," Kovacs said.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said last week that Turkey's parliament would also start ratifying Finland's accession. But it held off approving Sweden's bid, accusing it of harbouring Kurdish militants.

(Reporting by Krisztina Than, Editing by Alan Charlish and Angus MacSwan)

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